Apple missed a serious opportunity with iPhone 14

iPhone 14
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 14 has been out for a little bit now — be sure you check out what Mark Spoonauer had to say about it in his iPhone 14 review — but I can't help but feel that Apple made a serious omission with its $799 phone. 

At that price, the iPhone 14 is a good deal, but it's missing one thing its competitors do better — a display with a high-refresh rate. Other phones, like the equally priced Galaxy S22, feature 120Hz adaptive displays, while the Pixel 6 (which costs $200 less than the iPhone) offers a 90Hz screen. And that makes the 60Hz panel on the iPhone 14 look decidedly outdated.

In fact, that's what's holding me back from saying the iPhone 14 is the absolute best phone at its price level. Apple's phone has great cameras, awesome performance, decent battery life and the display itself is quite good. But that 60Hz display aged the iPhone 14 before it even came out.

At this point, even phones that costs hundreds of dollars less than the iPhone 14 give you a high refresh rate. I see absolutely no reason that Apple couldn't have gone with at least a 90Hz panel other than wanting to route everyone to the iPhone 14 Pro, which is a $200 upgrade over the iPhone 14. The takeaway message: "If you want the most modern, up-to-date tech in your smartphone, you need to go Pro."

Apple is basically saying, "If you want the most modern, up-to-date tech in your smartphone, you need to go Pro."

That's understandable (to a cynical degree), but I think it's a disservice to Apple's customers. From all appearances, the star of the show this year is the iPhone 14 Pro Max because a lot of people realized the iPhone 14 is the most iterative of iterative upgrades. In fact, I suggest that you should save yourself some money and get an iPhone 13 ($699) since the iPhone 14 vs. iPhone 13 differences are so minor. (My colleague Philip Michaels made this very argument, in fact.)

Another reason the iPhone 14's 60Hz display disappoints me: gaming. The A15 Bionic chip in the iPhone 14 is definitely powerful, easily able to provide more than 60 frames per second in even the most graphically-demanding games. But since the display is 60Hz, you're locked to 60 fps even though your iPhone 14's GPU can push more than that. It's a huge wasted opportunity for the iPhone 14 and its potential as a gaming phone.

Apple looks behind the times outside of the iPhone 14 Pro. The iPhone 14 and upcoming iPhone 14 Plus appear like relics from an older age. Between the notch and the 60Hz display on those models, I can't say either are innovative whatsoever. I'm bored, to be frank, and a 90Hz refresh rate would have made the iPhone 14 worth recommending over its predecessor. 

Instead, it's a very slight upgrade for the extra $100 Apple charges for the iPhone 14 over the iPhone 13. I don't think there's $100 worth of difference between the two. The lack of a high refresh rate display is a major lost opportunity for the iPhone 14 to stand out from the iPhone 13. Right now, it's terribly uninteresting and I think many consumers agree.

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.